HERE IS THE FACE THAT I CALL BEING ALIVE. And here is the other face, that one that I call death. Together they make the mask that I call water, or air, the mask that I call earth. This is the wind on a day so dry that I cannot make tears. This is the sound of my mother weeping, a sound that breaks my heart. This face will not come off in my hands. I am wading out into the river. One step follows another. The water comes over my knees, my hips, my chest. I am not the man that I thought I would become, but at least I am not the man that I was afraid of becoming. Here is my face, look closely. There is no damn lie in it. Goodbye. Now I am swimming away.
—James Lee Jobe, Davis
A MAN WITH A PIANO SINGS ABOUT GOD'S LOVE. His beard is long and pointed, and with my third eye I can see the angels loving him, so I love him, too. His face is handsome, and there is a sort of kindness in voice. From his heart, a long, dark hand reaches out to heaven. That hand touches me as well. Where is the sorrow that brought me here? Where is the faith that failed me? Each note sustains me, the verses return me to The One. Life, you reward me at times when I least expect it. Life is the river, and that which we name God is the boat.
—James Lee Jobe
THAT WHICH YOU TOUCH IS NOT A DREAM
—James Lee Jobe
The first peaches of the year, so ripe that they leap
From the tree into your cupped hands;
They are fuzzy acrobats, sticky, complete.
The weight of the old cat asleep in your lap;
You can still feel her body for awhile
After she gets up and stalks away complaining.
The feel of brand new Chuck Taylor sneakers
With the sidewalk under your feet, and the meat
Of living is laid out before you like a banquet.
Her lips on yours for the first time, red, easy
And slow, her arms tight around your neck,
Warm, and your arms around her waist,
The feel of her skin on yours, the mist
Of her breath in gasps, her hair in your face
With the summer scent of jasmine.
In the country of dreams there are borders
That you cannot cross, walls that you can see,
But cannot touch.
In the country of being alive,
Touch is lovely,
Touch is sweet.
—James Lee Jobe
—for Robert Lee Haycock—
And from the tracks of deer in the mud
Of the riverbank we find a way back to earth,
From the outer reaches of space.
It took a long time. So what?
There will always be people who tell us
That there are limits; those people are Vampires.
They drink the poetry right out of our blood.
They want to get fat from the failures of others.
How many rivers are there on earth? It doesn't matter.
Feel the depression made by the hoof of the deer.
Outline it with your finger. You own today,
My friend, and you own tomorrow, too.
are not well suited to the
A jacket does much better
— what the hell —
no sense having your
longer than your
—Tim Harper, Elk Grove
In a late night thunderstorm
on Ile Saint-Louis,
hard and hungry she
came at me.
A jungle beast
all quick pounce and
in a glacial creep,
inching upon me
as only a woman
while outside, with every crack,
bellowed our passion for us.
Small, hot irons of
pressed hard upon my shoulders,
she looks down
with eyes deranged suns;
bursts forth a lava
brighter than the lighting outside
to rip the edges of the dark.
And in that light I see,
between her breasts,
I was dreaming about you last night,
when Vince Lombardi walked in.
“The only hard part about playing football with
Our thanks to today's contributors, including James Lee Jobe, Tim Harper, and Michelle Kunert's photos. Tim Harper was born in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-1940s, which meant he was destined to be a gangster, cop, priest or writer. In the ‘50s he ran into the poetry of e.e. cummings and his fate was sealed. Becoming a fan of the “Beats” and people like Brautigan and Snyder, he began to write. After several tours in southeast Asia as a Special Forces officer, Harper returned to school at Texas State University and wrote several cycles of poems on the experience of war, as well as that of the ‘60s. A collection of this work was published as Coattails, a book so out of print that even he hasn’t got a copy! Harper chose to leave poetry from his public work, instead writing prose in commentaries and essays. During the ‘80s and '90s he read his prose mostly at veteran’s events with his friend and Special Forces brother the late Steve Mason (“Johnny’s Song”; “A Human Being”), who at the time was America’s Poet Laureate for veterans! In the '90s, Harper also returned to Paris and, as a result, began writing poetry again. He currently lives in Elk Grove, California, and he will be reading with D.R. Wagner and Robert Lee Haycock in Locke tomorrow at Moon Cafe Gallery on Main Street, 6pm.